New (and simpler) home studio layout

I’ve written before about how I was planning on simplifying and cleaning up my work space at home. Since I got back from Japan I’ve been busy moving stuff around and putting away the gear that I don’t use that often, or couldn’t comfortable and easily get to in the small space I occupy in our apartment.

The result is actually very relieving. It seems like for every kilo of gear that I move out of the way, my inspiration keeps increasing and I find it easier to just sit down and start working on ideas again.

Not saying that I have no use or love for the gear, but seeing it all around me and not being able to make full use of it because it would require moving furniture and re-route cables was actually are real downer for the creativity. Can’t wait for the day when I have enough space to set everything up properly. Until then I will bring the stuff out as needed…

Below is a picture of the new and simpler setup…

Studiospace

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Japan, Inspiration, 2015

My time in Japan is drawing to a close for this trip and it’s been a great 4 weeks with plenty of good food, old friends and new inspiration.

This time I didn’t compose or track any new music, but I discovered something far more important. Over the past 12 months or so I’ve been struggling to find the right ‘moment’ to work on actual music and it’s been extremely hard to even get started on new tracks.

I’ve spent a lot of time agonising over the direction of Glitzerstrahl and where I really want to go with the music. How serious am I really about this whole project?

Turns out that within 24h of leaving Sweden and getting on a plan to Tokyo I started feeling the familiar grinding urge in the back of my head. New tunes started slowly, like trickling streams of lost water droplets, meandering their way into my conscious.

That of course begged a different question…

Why couldn’t I muster this excitement while in Stockholm? Was it the darkness? The swedes? The narrow horizons of living in a country the size of a third of Tokyo?

Or was it something else?

Part of my current studio layout

Part of my current studio layout

I knew it wasn’t work. I love my work and I the people I get to share everyday in the office with. In fact, they are some of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn and draw professional inspiration from.

I knew it wasn’t the tech. I have amassed a well planned array of instruments and effects and while my studio PC (iMac) was getting sluggish under the weight of new versions of Komplete, Logic and Live, as long as I had the ‘drive’ I would have found a way around that limitation.

Instead, after much examination what I realised was that I was lacking three things:

  1. The right studio layout and creative environment (for me this is extremely important)
  2. A clear musical direction and ‘goal’ (what is the Glitzerstrahl ‘sound’ all about?)
  3. Enough theoretical knowledge and experience to realise no. 2

This was a great revelation. When looking back at the past 12 months through this lens so many struggles started to make sense.

Next I decided to turn these ‘problems’ into actions:

  1. Slim down the amount of tech stuff I have connected and rearrange my studio space to facilitate greater focus and an easier workflow. (I have a plan!)
  2. Create a new alias to explore a modern version of the Shibuya-Kei sound that was one of my first introductions to Japanese pop culture. A sound I love and treasure to this day and that lives on in the works of Nakata Yasutaka and others.
  3. Build a solid foundation in music theory and composition to give some structure and process to the ‘art’ of channeling inspiration into actual tracks.

This is not going to be an easy venture, especially not no. 2. I realise it will take the better part of 2015 to resolve these issues, but I’m determined to give it a try.

I’m super excited and can’t wait to get back and get to work.

Look out for lots of updates in the coming weeks and months!

Miku agrees!

Miku agrees!

CDs – still going strong in Japan

Japan, in contrast to the rest of the world, still has a fairly healthy CD sales market (last year 85% of music sales in Japan were CDs). It is definitely shrinking (17% 2014), but still accounts for a significant portion of world wide CD sales (Japan is still the second largest music market world wide).

IMG_0226The reasons are probably multiple, a mixture of the demographic (older people buy more CDs), the collectable fandom culture and finally the lack of streaming options. The last point in particular is interesting since no streaming service, domestic or foreign, have ever really caught on in Japan. In fact, most of the global services have never even been introduced here.

Within this landscape there are several media rental chains that thrive on renting out CDs, DVDs and console games. GEO and Tsutaya are probably the biggest, with stores across Japan.

They are the perfect waterhole to batch sample new music regardless of genre, as they usually carry a very wide selection. Whenever I go to Japan I like to stop buy and rent a bunch of discs from artists or genres that interest me, and then pick out the stuff that’s good enough for keeping.

If you visit Japan, don’t miss out on this opportunity to listen in on what’s currently popular.

Rock on! or off…

While my inspiration for the electronic side of the Glitzerstrahl project is running a bit low at the moment, I decided to do some intensive guitar practice instead. For this I need a new practice amp since I sold off my old ones when leaving the states.

So far I’ve narrowed my choices down to the following:

The Bugera V5 which is a tiny all tube amp with a power attenuator that allows you to switch between 5, 1 and .1 watts. This should come in really handy when practicing late at night. It’s a really simple amp with what sounds like a great clean channel and no frills except a built in digital reverb.

The Orange Crush PiX 35LDX which is a solid state amp rated at 35 watts with a 10″ speaker, digital effects and a built in tuner.

Both amps have headphone out and are comparable in price, so really the choice is between an all tube setup or a solid state. I can’t get rid of the feeling that the Bugera would sound just a tiny bit better (as in warmer, fuller and more natural) thanks to its tubes, but that the Orange would be more convenient.

Btw, I already have the pedals I would need to create most of the effects in the Orange box, but it would be more of a hassle to pull them out every time I just want to add a bit of delay…

Which one would you have chosen? Or would you go for something completely different?

Update: After much back and forth I ended up getting the Orange. Yes it may lack some of the tonal character of an all tube amp, but it makes up for it in convenience. Also, in all honesty the little different I could here in tone between the two is sure to be blanketed by my poor playing any way.

I’ll save the tube lure until I’ve learned to play properly and saved enough money for a really good one…

Random Update

Just a quick random update to show that I’m still alive.

It’s been really hard getting back into a good workflow since I arrived here in Sweden. I think part of it is my mind being occupied by my new job, the new environment and all the other changes that we are slowly getting used to. I also haven’t been able to organize my working environment very well and I’m the type of person who needs a well organized space to be creative.

On a positive note though I’m making some very slow progress on the next Cumulus album which will focus a lot on soundtracks to post-apocalyptic scenes and environments.

I got the chance to read through the latest version of the old swedish roleplaying game Mutant, which takes place in Scandinavia after some unknown apocalyptic event, and it’s been great fuel for the inspiration.

Finally, since Linn (my daughter) has started showing an interest in learning the piano we’ve added an electric 88key Yamaha piano to our home. I plan to use it for practice as well of course ;-).

That’s that! More to follow!